What do you need to be a top goalkeeper? Obviously talent is a necessity as is physical presence but what else? We spoke to Ruud Hesp, formerly a goalkeeper with Barcelona and currently the goalkeeper’s coach at PSV Eindhoven, about the various facets of the art of goalkeeping.
The Most Important Ability A Goalkeeper Needs
The thing that you need to have is to be stable in your head; to be able to get along with pressure. For me, for example, when I played for Barcelona I didn’t feel the pressure from the public and the press because I didn’t read the papers, I didn’t see the television and I was only thinking about my own pressure. I was only thinking about playing well and if I didn’t do that then people could only be disappointed but not angry because I knew that I was doing everything to perform well.
I trained well during the whole week. For me every training (session) was an opportunity to improve. So when I started the game I had the confidence of being prepared for the game. And then you need some luck also apart from the qualities you have. You have to be free in your head.
Reaction After A Mistake
What I try to give our goalkeepers at PSV is that you have to think about what happens. Briefly, but you have to think about it. What kind of mistake did I make? And it sounds very stupid but ask yourself: did I do it on purpose? No, I didn’t do it on purpose. So, people cannot be angry at me, they can only be disappointed. Then what you have to do is to analyse your mistake. Is it a goalkeeping mistake? Is it a positioning mistake, did you place yourself in the wrong spot? Did you come out when you shouldn’t have? Is it something with your feet that you did wrong?
I can give you an example. When I played for Barcelona against Chelsea in 1998, we lost at Chelsea 3-1 so needed to win 2-0. We were leading 2-0 and I received a ball that I played badly. I wanted to kick it long but instead gave to the Chelsea striker Tore Andre Flo and he scored; 2-1. In the end we won and went through but at that moment we still had to play 15 minutes to score another goal. After that mistake, in the next minute Frank Lampard shot on goal because maybe he thought that I was insecure or my confidence had gone. And it was a ball that was swerving in the air. The ball came just to the right side of me, I got it and I held it. That was the first moment after the mistake.
Afterwards I was trying to analyse what happened and I realised that I had been able to analyse the mistake as one with my kicking, not a mistake of catching the ball. So I instinctively realised that a mistake of my passing should not influence my goalkeeping (shot stopping). And that is what I try to explain to our goalkeepers, even our youth goalkeepers. One mistake does not have to influence other parts of your goalkeeping. But that comes with experience. That’s difficult in the beginning.
Training For Handling Mistakes
You don’t know in advance but you can train. You can train it by putting the goalkeeper in those situations. In training you can play bad balls and if he makes a mistake then the next ball has to be good. And if you try to get the goalkeeper in a lot of bad situations then he has to react to that and do the good thing. So you have to bring him in bad situations to get him in a positive situation. In the beginning that is very difficult because they get frustrated but if that happens a lot of time then it gets natural and automatic reaction after they do a mistake. But that also needs a lot of experience.
That is also why they say that a goalkeeper is at his peak after twenty seven years because by then he has played a lot of games, he’s had a lot of situations, so he knows what to do.
Ability With Feet And Hands
Goalkeeping has changed and playing with your feet is important. But still what is most important is the goalkeeping with your hands, choosing position and things like that. So, what we try to do is to train the goalkeepers in playing with ball – passing and kicking – in exercises that involve goalkeeping. That means they have to shoot a lot, they have to play in position games and when the outfield players do passing exercises goalkeepers join them.
It is also important for the players to know the capabilities of the goalkeeper in playing with his feet. So many times our warming ups include a lot of football actions because about ten years ago when it all changed everybody began to train the football things and not as much the goalkeeping things. And, in my opinion, that went too far. The most important is the goal. The goalkeeper is the only one who can use his hands so that has to be a hundred percent. He is also allowed to use his feet but that is secondary. So most important is training the hands and then the feet.
It is difficult and that also needs experience. But if you start training that aspect from a young age then you can develop it.
Also, it depends on character. If you’re a quite person it is difficult for you to be dominant during the game. But if you want to succeed you have to. So it is important that they start getting that feeling from a young age.
What we try to do at PSV is to give them some words that they have to use according to the situation. That way if they grow up or get to another team then they know what to do. At the same time the players know that they mean when they state those words. If you train that from a young age they get used to it. It becomes a habit.
When I started out as a goalkeeper professionally I was a quite boy but then I came into a team that was made up of very opinionated men so if I wanted to survive I had to do the same. So in order to integrate I had to do the same.
I had to train myself because in those days, whilst there was a goalkeeping coach, he was only shooting balls to the goal. They were not working with a philosophy about how to improve the goalkeepers. Nowadays we have a lot of plans and we do a lot of logical things.
In the old days we used to shoot balls. It was nice but now we try to be a bit more specific. What does a goalkeeper need to play well? We constantly ask ourselves that.
Preparing For Big Games
For me, if we show them pictures of opponents then we are not doing so to worry them but to remind them of the opportunity that they have. Wow, you’re going to face Messi!
We show them their qualities and they have to be prepared for that. But we present it to them as a chance to do well, not a reason to worry. They get videos sent home so that they can be prepared but again it is for the opportunity to stop people from scoring. If you present it like that then the goalkeepers gets into the game with another feeling. You should never give the impression that the opponent is too good for you.
Other snippets from the interview with Ruud Hesp are available here.